A migrant group condemned what it called arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) against Filipino travelers its agents suspect may be victims of human trafficking.
Following reports of several passengers barred from travelling in March alone, Migrante International (MI) said the BI may have violated the right to travel of migrant workers and other overseas bound Filipinos.
Mi cited the case of Abu Dhabi-based expatriate Natalie dumlao who was not allowed to board her flight to Hong Kong last March 20 despite presenting all the required travel documents.
The immigration officer told her to cancel her United Arab Emirate residence visa first before being allowed to proceed with her pleasure trip with her partner.
MI said there is no such rule in the books.
The group also cited a Dubai-bound Filipino off to visit his sister who was offloaded twice last month despite carrying travel documents.
An Israel-bound Filipina was also asked unreasonable questions and asked to present a graduation yearbook at the immigration counter in the same time period.
Social media lit up with more stories of travelers prevented from boarding their flights after Dumlao’s complaint became viral.
“These incidents clearly show the arbitrary imposition of flight restrictions on OFWs who are about to depart the country. These restrictions violate OFWs’ right to travel and work abroad and are openings for bribery and corruption. This is no way to treat the country’s supposed new heroes, the lifesavers of the country’s economy,” MI said.
The group added that the arbitrary restrictions show that the BI and the Marcos government are not serious in fighting human trafficking.
“On the contrary, these actions show that they are a failure in this area,” MI said.
MI said that if the goal is to combat or stop human trafficking, the BI and the Marcos government can increase their information and education efforts against human trafficking among prospective migrants and the public.
“They can look for and punish human traffickers, and not the suspected victims,” MI said.
Disrespectful immigration officers
While saying many are doing their job well, MI also accused the immigration bureau of having some of the most disrespectful, if not outright rude, immigration officers in the world.
“We blame this on the orientation given to them; they should not be playing their present role in fighting human trafficking,” MI said.
The BI has since apologized to the victims.
MI added that if the Marcos government is really serious in fighting human trafficking, it should create decent jobs in the Philippines.
“So far, it is an utter failure in this respect, as unemployment continues to increase and no palpable efforts are seen with regard to job generation efforts that are led by the government,” it said.
The group reiterated its call for the junking of exorbitant and money-making restrictions on OFWs to travel, such as the Overseas Employment Certificate, which is just an added burden, another state exaction on OFWs. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)